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Snowy ridgeline at the top of Tom Dick and Harry Mountain

Snowy ridgeline at the top of Tom Dick and Harry Mountain

My days have been full, but if I don’t get outside now and then, I go a little stir-crazy. So I hiked to a new place called Mirror Lake, which sits at the base of Tom Dick and Harry Mountain. Isn’t that a great name for a peak?

Blogger friend LB had challenged me on facebook to post 5 black and white photos in 5 days, and once I was above the snow line, it was obvious that I was surrounded by black and white photos. Every photo in this post is in full color, but you wouldn’t always guess it, huh? The day was forecast to be mostly sunny, and that turned out to be true almost anywhere but over the peaks. I stayed at the top of the mountain for at least an hour, but the sun only teased me: a bright sunbeam here and there, a glimpse of blue sky overhead as a hole in the fog drifted past, but basically it was a snowy cloudy day.

And a brilliant day!

Fresh snow was falling and decorating branches around the lake.

Fresh snow was falling and decorating branches around the lake.

Modern art: stripes of red and white and black. Sort of ;-)

Modern art: stripes of red and white and black. Sort of 😉

The snow was really coming down at this time, and you can see it in the background where there are no sheltering trees.

The snow was really coming down at this time, and you can see it in the background where there are no sheltering trees. What a lovely name for a forest: Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness.

Sunbeam alert!

Sunbeam alert!

Mirror lake wasn't as mirrory under ice.

Mirror lake isn’t as mirrory under ice.

I was tempted to use this one in my B&W challenge. What a pretty twisty tree branch.

I was tempted to use this one in my B&W challenge. What a pretty twisty tree branch.

Willows along the marshes on the side of Mirror Lake.

Willows in the marshes on the side of Mirror Lake.

At the top of the mountain, sun periodically lit up the bits of cloud moving through.

At the top of the mountain, sun periodically lit up the bits of cloud moving through.

This little guy along the trail on the way home gave me a happy "So Long!"

This little guy along the trail on the way home gave me a happy “So Long!”


Me, gazing at the rolling waves of clouds breaking over the ridge of Mt. Jefferson.

Me, gazing at the rolling waves of clouds breaking over the ridge of Mt. Jefferson. In case you were wondering, yes, this is yet another fabulous Oregon volcano!

{Read my post from Day One here.}

Arno hung a thermometer in the tent and when we checked it in the morning, it read 30 degrees. Below freezing inside the tent.

The morning was cloudy and windy, which made us reluctant to get moving. But my knight left me snug in my down sleeping bag, and got up to make coffee. I had been mostly warm during the night. In our rush to pack, we had accidentally brought the summer tent, made primarily of mesh to encourage a brisk airflow. Though I had the extra-luxurious air mattress, it was not enough to block the freezing temperature of the snow from chilling any part of me touching the ground. One nice thing was that I had thought to bring my wet jacket into the bag with me and by morning it was dry. Voila!

We drank the first press pot (yes, coffee snobs must use a French press even while backpacking) and ate breakfast in our bags. While Arno was making the second pot, I finally emerged from the tent to see that the clouds were burning off and the sun was out! What a difference the sun makes when it’s so cold.

To our surprise, another backpacker came through camp around 9am on snowshoes. He had camped at Russell Lake, and was now exploring. Our plan for the day was to go exploring up toward Russell Lake. For the rest of the day, we saw his snow shoe tracks all over the place and I was glad we had met him, so I knew who to imagine when I spotted the wandering tracks.

Arno breaks trail where the snow shoes had only scuffed the surface.

Arno breaks trail where the snow shoes had only scuffed the surface.

We returned to the Pacific Crest Trail, and soon left behind the footprints of Saturday’s day hikers. For much of the day, we were breaking new trail, watching for the little triangle brand mounted on trees to mark the PCT.  I liked the idea that we might be helping a future hiker, so we tried to stay on the trail. Breaking the trail was hard work, but welcome effort, because it kept us warm. We took turns being in front, since the one following had an easier time of it.

Our earlier hiking was easier because the snow was more frozen and we didn’t sink in very far. As the day warmed the snow, we sunk deeper and deeper.  We passed lots of lakes. So many that they aren’t all named. Some frozen over, and the larger ones liquid and sparkling in the sunshine.

Around mid-day we found a snow-free zone beneath some trees, and we stopped for lunch. We had to carry our down coats and thickest gloves and hats for the stops, so that we didn’t freeze when we stopped plowing the snow. I was grateful that Arno thought of this ahead of time, and that way I stayed warm all day.

Arno pumping water at a tiny lake beneath Mt. Jefferson

Arno pumping water at a tiny lake beneath Mt. Jefferson

After lunch we punched a hole in a lake and pumped some water to fill our bladders and a spare Nalgene bottle, then went back to camp. Not quite ready to stop for the day, we continued past camp and circled around Scout Lake to the other side, and discovered some truly stunning views of the mountain across the lake.

Looking back across Scout Lake toward our camp, and the volcano behind.

Looking back across Scout Lake toward our camp, and the volcano behind.

The sun had dried some duff on the north side of the lake, and we went to the place to sit and rest in the failing daylight. It was obviously a campsite, cleared of nearly all human traces. Except for one sandwich-sized ziplock bag of a thick brown substance. “Looks like a bag of poo!” I said, in my delicate ladylike way. Now why would someone leave this? WHAT is this? Eew. I could just imagine the conversation of the people leaving camp.

One says to the other, “Don’t forget the bag of poo. I’m not carrying it.”

“I don’t want to carry the poo! Let’s bury it.”

“You can’t bury that, it’s plastic! Why did you put poo in the bag in the first place?”

Fall colours still visible in the snow

Fall colours reaching  up through the snow

DSC_0117 -1

We found a spot to sit and read the map, eat some trail mix, and talk about stuff. Arno and I can talk a blue streak. I complain sometimes that he talks too much, but I’m a total jabberbox too. We talked and stretched and took photos and laughed in the sun till there was almost no more sun. The moment the sunbeams left us, it got cold quick. It was time to go back.

But… there was still something that had to be dealt with. Arno shook the last of the trailmix into his mouth. “Hand me that bag,” I said. “I’ll put the poo in here.” And I did. And I carried it out. Bleh. People.

We spotted our trail down the steep hill from our camp to the lake

On the way back we spotted our trail down the steep hill from our camp to the lake

The hike back went pretty quickly and it was still early evening when we unloaded our gear at camp. We crawled into our bags in the tent and played a game of Yahtzee. Then ate sausage jambalaya for dinner. Yummy and filling.

Evening sun sets on Park Butte, where we had been sitting for the past couple hours.

Evening sun sets on Park Butte. The far shore is near where we had been sitting for the past couple of hours.

DSC_0178 -1Monday morning dawned brilliantly! Clear blue skies and sun, sun, sun. Diamonds sparkled across the snow and in the branches of the trees. We had our coffee outside, and ate orange cranberry muffins. We finally caved to the begging Whiskey Jacks and shared our crumbs. They were obviously used to people and came very close to us. One even hopped onto Arno’s boot, so we got out the camera and took a bunch of bird photos.

Look at this bold little guy

Look at this bold little guy

I'm sitting with the birds. (Look! It's so warm I'm not even wearing gloves!)

I’m sitting with the birds. (Look! It’s so warm I’m not even wearing gloves!)

The hike out was amazingly beautiful. So warm I took off my snow pants and just hiked in leggings. We counted people heading up and passed 16 of them! Only two had full packs, so the rest were just day hikers. I was doubly glad we had stomped the trail for them.

Sun through leaves near the trailhead

Sun through leaves near the trailhead

Mt. Jefferson in snow-capped loveliness

Mt. Jefferson in snow-capped loveliness, as we hiked out on Monday.

After the Goat Rocks hike, Arno asked me to pick a future weekend to squeeze in one last hike. My schedule is often full, and the first date that looked promising was Columbus Day weekend, which would be three days off due to the federal holiday. I planned not to work overtime, to give us three days in a row to play in the mountains.

Since then the government shut down, and though I had to continue working, the mandatory overtime policy was temporarily canceled. Shut downs don’t allow a holiday off, so we were all furloughed for one day on Monday. Ha, ha, the stuff the government comes up with in order to conform to its own silly structure. In any case, the weekend arrived with all three days still available.

We picked Jefferson Park as our destination, because Internet photos showed it to be beautiful, and because neither of us had been there. Jefferson Park includes the area surrounding a group of lakes at the base of Mt. Jefferson, Oregon. The hike from the trailhead is an easy climb – only 1800 feet – in 5.2 miles.

I assumed the weather would be cold.  The forecast was for a chance of rain/snow showers Saturday, then dry the next two days. With Arno’s help I have collected a decent amount of cold weather gear. He brought his super-duper winter sleepingbag for me. I indulged and brought the thick, full-length sleeping pad which is heavy & bulky for backpacking, but I expected it would be worth it to get myself off the cold ground.

Maybe I haven’t told you, but I am a fair-weather camper. I like hiking in shorts and a tank top. I like jumping into snowmelt lakes for a refreshing swim. However, to get fabulous fall foliage views, I was prepared to be be cold for a few days. As long as I was warm at night, I could take it. With a fire to warm my hands in the evening, even better!

This is the trail we followed to Scout Lake.

This is the trail we followed to Scout Lake. Click the image for the source.

Information boards and no available permits at the Whitewater Trailhead

Information boards and no available permits at the rainy Whitewater Trailhead

DSC_0199 -1It was raining when we arrived at the Whitewater Trailhead. I went to fill out a mandatory camping permit, but all the blank permits had been used and were jammed into the box for collection. I went to use the outhouse and there was no toilet paper. Seasoned traveler that I am, I noticed this the moment I stepped in the door, and went back to the truck for paper. Coming back to the outhouse, I noticed the sign on the door, which explained the source of the problems.

We reasoned that if Rangers had been furloughed, then no Ranger would be on the trails checking to see if we had a permit. After gearing up in the rain, we headed up the trail.

The trail was in good shape because it wound across mostly rocky areas and wasn’t muddy from the rain. In a short while, the rain switched to snain, and then full-on snow. We had one creek crossing that wasn’t too much trouble. I was not concerned about the snow falling. What caught my attention was that as we climbed higher, there was an increasing amount of snow already on the ground, from the previous week of heavy precipitation. Arno had hiked Mt. Hood the week before, and saw that snow level remained above 6000 feet, and we guessed that it would be the same here. We had guessed wrong.

Snow starts to come down hard as I realize our destination is a much higher elevation.

Snow starts to come down hard as I realize our destination is a much higher elevation.

We passed three women and an older couple coming out of the park after day hikes. They confirmed for us that there was a lot of snow around the lakes. The man said he sank up to his knees. It was still a little hard to imagine the depth of the snow they were describing, since I had my mind set on fall colours. Luckily we were well-dressed and stayed warm as we climbed higher.

Soon our trail merged with the Pacific Crest Trail, and we followed that famous border-to-border trail for the rest of our hike.

The first lake we spotted was Scout Lake. It was beautiful and inviting and I pressed Arno to leave the trail and investigate for signs of a place to camp. I was still sort of hoping for a clear patch, but gave up hope rather quickly.

The trail we made from the PCT to get to our camp.

The trail we made from the PCT to get to our camp.

We were the first people to leave the packed down PCT since the snow had fallen. It was about two feet deep at the point where we left the trail. Arno suggests 1 1/2 feet deep. Either way, it’s a lot to break trail through.

We found a beautiful spot on a hill above Scout Lake, with Park Butte to the north and Mt. Jefferson to our south. There was an area large enough for a tent, and Arno showed me how to tromp down the snow into a hard-packed surface so that we could pitch our tent on top of it. I have never camped ON snow before. I recalled hunting camp as a kid, when sometimes we’d wake in the morning to a couple fresh inches of snow on the tent. But this was an entirely new experience and I had some anxiety. I am finding that Arno pushes me outside my comfort zone on a pretty regular basis, but so far I’ve come away better each time, so it’s ok.

The snow had stopped, and as the darkness fell, the setting sun dropped below a cloud deck and struck beams out across the water for us to marvel at. (In case you’re wondering, the sunny photos from this post are from Monday, when we hiked out, since the first photos I took on grey, foggy, snowy Saturday are not as nice.)

Tent on snow. Brrr!

Tent on snow. Brrr! That is Scout Lake, and you can barely see Park Butte.

Arno began making dinner and I tromped through the snow gathering firewood. It was hard to find anything dry, since the previous week had been so very wet. I gathered the sticks with the most potential, and made a heap on top of the snow. I am the pyro of the family, and my record has been so far unblemished. But this time my skills failed me. The wood was sopping wet and I had nothing dry to start with. Even the lichen, that I typically use to get everything going, was soaking wet. I had brought a new box of matches, and thought to myself I will sacrifice the whole box of matches for the cause. The matches were dry wood, after all. I thought if I could hold a match flame up to a stick for a long enough time, it would have to dry it out enough to burn it. One after another match burned till I used the entire box, successfully burning the branches I aimed for, but nothing else. Then realized I now had a dry paper box to burn! I borrowed Arno’s lighter, carefully placed the cardboard matches box and pressed tiny branches all around it and burned the box to no avail. Every so often, I could eek out a couple minutes of flames, which would heat the nearby branches and burn them up, and set my hopes soaring. Like the effect of slot machines, those tiny near-victories kept me coming back. My competitive nature, my pyromania, my pride, kept me at it for 30 minutes. I just KNEW if only I could get a decent burst of flame, I could get it all going properly. But fuel…. I needed paper!

Before we left home, Arno had photocopied the big map to get just our trail onto one 8 1/2 x 11 sheet that I could carry while he had the big map. It was paper. But a little voice in my head squeaked Isn’t burning your map kind of crazy? I asked Arno, “Can I burn the map now?” He looked dubious, but agreed. We had found our destination, after all, and we had a second map. Again I carefully prepped it all, placed the driest lichen, the best tiny branches, and the paper charred and smoked and sparked a little, and burned up without doing me a bit of good. Then the lighter ran out of fluid. It had to be a sign. I quit for good. To help me resist the temptation to go after the last book of matches (Look, I’m not stupid enough to use up ALL our flame, ha ha), I carried away all the dry branches I had gathered and scattered them in the heaps of snow away from camp.

By this time, dinner was nearly ready. We were cold and the bacon carbonara with sun dried tomatoes was warm and delicious. Whiskey Jacks (grey jays) showed up to see if we had any food to share yet. We got to talking about the ingredients for mulled wine and got the idea to heat our evening’s wine on the stove. Brilliant! Hot wine in the snow: one more “first” to add to my list.

Before we went to sleep, the moon became visible in the clearing sky. I had not brought a tripod, so I leaned against a tree to get a few night shots of the mountain above us.

{Read my post for Day Two and Day Three here.}

The moon waxing over Mt. Jefferson, as viewed from camp.

The moon waxing over Mt. Jefferson, as viewed from camp.

A recent email from my boyfriend, Arno, was so entertaining I asked if I could make a blog post out of it. He gave his permission. Following is his email, unedited.

Arno at the stone hut on Cooper Spur, Mt. Hood Oregon

Arno at the stone hut on Cooper Spur, Mt. Hood Oregon

Driving up to the ski area (where the Tilly Jane trail head is) I turned off of Hwy 35 just after a northbound Toyota Landcruiser with Canadian plates. The Landcruiser was older (but not too old). It had a lift kit and oversize wheels, with more of a “go places trail worthy” look than the overbuilt penis compensating look. It also had a roof rack and an air intake snorkel. The easy guess was that the driver and passengers were young(ish) adventurers from up north, eh.

I followed it up the twisty road to Cooper Spur inn, and then it turned and ended up going all the way to the same Tilly Jane parking lot that I was going to. I pulled in and parked, and got out to start putting on my boots. The driver of the Landcruiser got out and wandered over to the trail head sign. Then he saw me and wandered over. It turned out that the rather capable looking Landcruiser was being piloted by a 72 year old retired engineer and co-piloted by his 65 year old wife. They were from Parksville BC which is on Vancouver Island (not to be confused with Vancouver the city) BC. They make an annual pilgrimage to Oregon to play around and their plan had been to drive up to the Cloud Cap parking lot eight miles further up the road. But the road is closed at Tilly Jane. That’s why the guy came over to talk to me, he wanted to know why the road was closed. I explained the Hazard Tree harvesting project this summer, and we talked briefly about forest fire management. He looked disappointed to have to hike up from so far down (I’d given him the data on how far it was to tree line). Then I asked if he and his wife had ever hiked Tamawanas falls. It turned out that they hadn’t, and it sounded a much better time to them than hiking up Tilly Jane. They thanked me and drove away.

It was not too cold (48F) and only mizzle when I started, so I warmed up quickly. I tried to hike slow enough to keep my rain shell on, but kept getting hot, so eventually I took off the shell and hiked in just my long sleeve thin icebreaker base layer shirt. The mizzle was light enough that I wasn’t getting too terribly wet (I kept my rain pants on cuz they were too much of a pain to change out of). The lower part of the trail, within the first half mile, has a couple of sections of soggy trail where people have put down logs. With all of the recent rain, the trail was a complete bog in places. Even the logs seemed soggy. Fortunately, my boots are exceedingly waterproof.

About a mile up the trail I caught a bit of brown motion in my peripheral vision and stopped. There were three doe black tail deer standing about 20 meters uphill from me, all three watching me intently. I stayed where I was and talked quietly, saying “hello my deer, how are you?” They didn’t answer back, but they didn’t take off running either. I keep talking gently, and started walking again. And they stayed where they were, I guess deciding that I was safe enough they didn’t have to run. Believe it or not this is the first time that I’ve seen deer on that trail. It struck me as odd at the time, but I guess it probably isn’t all that strange. It’s the time of year that deer move to lower elevations and this is the first time I’ve hiked that trail in late September.

About a half mile farther up the trail, more brown motion. This time, a solitary buck. When I saw him he was already in “cartoon” mode. He was moving from north to south, with that four footed jumping motion that deer can do. That casual, effortless looking spring into the air that says, “Hey, look at me you possible predator. I’m fast and springy and it’s really not even worth thinking about trying to chase me and eat me because I can spring away from you so fast it will make your head spin”. It was wonderful to watch him bound across the trail.

As I neared the Tilly Jane A-frame, patches of snow appeared on the ground, and the mizzle started to change over to sleet, then snain, and finally at the A-frame itself it was snowing, but only lightly. I stopped briefly to eat a ham sandwich that I’d packed. The only layer that I added for warmth was my rain shell, and that proved a little too light. I started to get chilled, but didn’t really want to dig out extra clothing, so instead I ate only half the sandwich, then packed up and started hiking again to generate heat, this time leaving my rain shell on for added warmth.

From the A-frame, the trail goes through woods for almost a mile before reaching the Timberline trail about a thousand feet higher up the mountain. As I gained altitude, the wind howled louder in the trees, and the snow both fell heavier and covered the trail more heavily. At first, there was only slush on the trail and spots of snow. By the time I was in the stunted growth trees, there was 6-8″ of snow on the trail. As I closed in on tree line, the snow was at least a foot deep. I paused to pull up my hood, contemplated getting out my ski goggles (it was obvious that once I cleared the trees the snow would be blowing sideways) and kept going.

It’s only a few hundred meters from the shelter of the trees to the shelter of the stone hut. The wind was spectacular. It was foggy, snowing, and blowing snow. I did a mental check to see if I remembered the compass heading back to the trail as I exited the trees. I could still see the trees, but if the clouds closed in only a little more, I could lose sight of the trees only 20 meters away. A compass is a useful tool. I didn’t want to get lost!  I go to the stone hut, took a picture, contemplated eating, then decided that the weather was worsening and opted to start back down instead. In the 20 minutes it took me to clear the tree line and get to the hut, and then start back, the wind and snow were strong enough that my tracks, punched through 18 inches of snow, were already almost covered over in places. The sky was noticeably darker, the wind stronger, the snow stinging. These were the kind of conditions that can get people who don’t know what they’re doing.

On my way down, back in the trees, mostly out of the wind. I was hiking along, making very good time descending, and was close enough to the A-frame that there wasn’t much snow on the trail. I came around a bend in the trail and almost ran into a guy in a yellow rain shell. He was more surprised than I was and actually let out a little shriek. We both stopped, and exchanged basic greetings. He was very surprised to see anyone else on the trail, and asked how much farther it was to the stone hut. I told him it was about half a mile and asked if he’d been up there before. He said that he had, but not by this trail. He’d always driven up before and taken the upper trail from the old Cloud Cap Inn, but with the road closed he’d been forced to hike. He then explained that his grandmother in-law had died the previous year, and they’d taken her ashes up to the moraine by the stone hut (he didn’t say moraine, he said the edge of the valley with the view, but he meant the moraine). Then he continued his story, saying that his grandfather in law had just passed away, and the family wanted his ashes spread at the same place. He was the one that got to do the extra-long hike to do the job.

He seemed reasonably well prepared based on his gear and how he was using it. I was a little concerned that he wouldn’t be prepared for the transition in weather above tree line (it really was like night and day with the wind and snow, vs where we were standing having a conversation). I actually contemplated asking if he wanted me to go up with him, but then decided against it. I told him how much farther he had to go, mentioned the wind and snow and how my tracks started to get covered up pretty quickly and asked in a left handed way if he had a compass with him (he did, in his pack, I almost suggested that he should take it out now before he hits the wind so that he would have it to take a bearing, but I stopped short of saying that. I just suggested that taking a compass bearing above treeline was a good idea.

And then I resumed my descent. I ate the other half of my sandwich at the A-frame on the way down. Marveled at the worsening weather (the mizzle was a very solid rain at the lower elevation), and didn’t see any more deer. Back at the truck I changed into dry layers and then headed home.

So, like I had texted you, a moderately eventful trip.

The retired folks with the mondo 4×4 were entertaining and unexpected. The guy carrying his grandfather in-law’s ashes reminded me of the closing scene in the movie “The Bucket List”. And also reminded me that I want someone to do that with my ashes. Maybe even haul my ashes up Cooper spur. Only it would have to be past the stone hut to at least the top of the pyramid at 8K feet. The view is better there.

-Your mountain geek.

The stunning Mt. Hood in early December

Feeling the tug of a winterscape, my girl and I drove west to Mt. Hood; it’s brilliant white peak beckoning from Portland. We were blessed with a sunny, blue-sky day that set the mountain off to perfection.

Me and Terra in front of the mountain

We were nearly at the mountain before our landscape became a true wintry wonderland, but the trip was relatively short and oh, so worth it! At the base of the road to Timberline Lodge, we stopped to pick up two young snowboarders.

“What are you doing stranded out here at the bottom of the mountain with no ride?” I asked.

“There’s a place to ski all the way to the bottom,” they answered, “but there is no lift to take us back from here. So we hitch back up!”

The seven mile road to the lodge was solid snow pack, but well sanded, so my little Saturn dragon-wagon made it up with barely a slip. I took the chance with no chains (Saturns can’t use them), and no snow tires, but the gamble paid off. We let the boarders out, parked, and were up to our knees in snow in no time.



After the snow soaked through our clothes, and the mountain wind did it’s best at us, we went inside the lodge and found a roaring fire where we could brush the snow off onto the hearth. Timberline is one of the few old time lodges that, to me, are the only authentic ski lodges. Terra’s dad and I were unable to find lodges like this in Vermont when we lived there, which is sad.



The windows of the lodge look up the mountain as well as down, with panoramic views of Oregon and skiers in all directions. The second floor opens up to the third, which contains a restaurant where diners can look outside onto the snow or inside onto skiers taking a break on the sofas or reading books by the fire. Timberline has a three-story fireplace (don’t ask me how it’s done) in the center. The first floor has an old U.S. Forest Service museum of sorts, which brings back warm fuzzy childhood memories of growing up in a Forest Service family.



We explored all over the building, found an outdoor heated pool with heaps of snow melting over the edges, and many impressive wood carvings and details throughout. Once warm again, we trekked back outside and played in the snow a little more before heading back down. This time the sun was lower, causing ice to firm up on the road, and the dragon wagon did some sliding around on the way down. Yipes.

looking down the mountain

At the bottom of the hill, I looked, and sure enough I spotted the hill the snowboarders were talking about. I also spotted three more skiers hoping to hitch back up to the top!

This is a scene we like to see in December!

Next we drove out to our campsite from the summer, to see if the road was plowed to it, in case we wanted to do any winter camping. The plowed road stopped just short of the camp turn off. We parked and walked the remainder of the way, meeting others out walking dogs and cross-country skiing. I snapped some more photos of the stunning Mt. Hood in waning sunshine, and we made our happy way home.

There is an exit for “West The Dalles.” The sign never fails to make me scrunch up my nose and think about it. West The Dalles. Maybe there is an East The Dalles. Central The Dalles?

…it is the metropolis I currently sit within. Impatiently.

I planned a holiday gift for my mother. It didn’t quite work, but close. Her favourite holiday is Thanksgiving, because of the tradition of family gathering. Only, as so many things in her world, the gathering of family for the holidays is mostly an ideal created and tended lovingly in her mind. It’s never actually happened.

My great plan was to gather her four kids and their families at HER HOUSE for Thanksgiving. One of the reasons we don’t visit her often is because it’s a major strategic operation just to get there. I’ve mentioned already she lives on a mountaintop, outside of Moyie Springs, Idaho. It’s about 20 miles from Canada and 6 miles from Montana.

(For anyone my age or older, you may remember the Ruby Ridge incident, when FBI agents surrounded the home of a white separatist family and shot most of them, killing the wife through a window, while she stood holding their baby inside the house, and killing their 13 year old son – shot in the back while he was running away from them. Yes… I’m still bitter about it. In any case, Ruby Ridge is basically in Moyie Springs.)

I’ve got two out of three brothers & fams committed to the family gathering. One of them took no effort at all and has been my star of the holiday! One of them required major mucho dinero spent on plane tickets and rental car from big Sis to agree to the plan. The other one… drat! Can’t get him & fam up from Boise (8 hour drive, though in the same state).

Getting to this point has been such an undertaking (ugh, what family can put us through…), that now I am exhausted and broke and I’ve got my own 8-hour drive ahead of me. I have Wednesday off, and got out of work early today, eager to make a quick hop to Kennewick and crash with some friends. I had been checking the forecast for a week, and Tuesday night looked like the best weather of the whole week. Tonight was supposed to be my one big chance to make some major miles!

Except that I got HAMMERED by a blizzard just outside of The Dalles. Just before West The Dalles actuallly, but I still managed to scrunch up my nose while I thought about how funny that sounds, and then quickly yanked my attention back to the icy road, no visibility, cars crashed off the highway on both sides, so far away in the dark that even the highway lights couldn’t illuminate what sort of destruction lay out there.

I sat in a KMart parking lot for 30 minutes hoping it was just a quick burst of snow that would move on, but no such luck. So, giving in, I checked into a crappy Motel 6 and got the LAST AVAILABLE ROOM (one of the staff had to clear her own stuff out because she was using it as a breakroom). And here I sit. It’s still snowing, but only barely at the moment. Temperature is forecast to drop to 3 degrees here tonight, so all the ice and snow that was just deposited isn’t going anywhere.

I was supposed to be in Kennewick /she whines/ with my friieeennndddss… /she whines some more/. Well, hey, I knocked a whole hour and half off my drive. Only six and a half left for tomorrow. That is, if the weather is more cooperative.

Wish me luck with the family. It will make Mom’s decade. And that, hopefully, will make it worth all the trouble it took to make it happen.

Hi! It’s Sunday and it’s snowing.

Mother Nature! How many times do I have to tell you: IT DOESN’T SNOW IN PORTLAND.

Good grief. You listen to direction about as well as my daughter.

Well, fresh snow on branches really *IS* beautiful. And this snow will probably be melted in 24 hours.

And it gives me an excuse to keep the fire going and use up that blown-down debris that Miss T and I collected on Monday.

Putting on snow gear before we head out to Safeway

Miss T is in Boise now. I’ve been checking Alaska Airlines’ tracker, and I see that her plane is on the ground. Hopefully Grandpa Trulove found her, or is finding her. I’m hoping for a phone call soon. ( <–worried Mom)

Roads are somewhat better, but the side streets which have been a disaster for a long time, are probably at their worst ever. For the first time since the big snow, we couldn’t get the car out this morning. I was thinking, “After all our little ridiculous trips to play in the snow because we were bored… this time we need to get our girl to the airport and we’re stuck.”

girlie and me loaded with groceries

But my man is tenacious, as well as a skilled winter driver, and we finally got the little Jetta through the piles of 8-inch-deep slush and ice (skidding all over the place, fishtailing, please-don’t-smack-one-of-these-parked-cars-please-don’t…), and onto Stark/Washington, which is clear. Then, our ONE chain slowed us down (one because the other one snapped off when we got stuck on Hawthorne that day I lost my ID), and we went 27 miles an hour all the way to the airport. Lucky for us, we live pretty close to the airport.

ANYHOW, roads are better and our mail is finally getting through again. We got a big stack of Christmas cards yesterday. Included was my annual letter from my math teacher from high school. Yep, I am from one of those tiny country schools where everyone knew and mostly liked each other. I still have addresses for several of my high school teachers. So in their Christmas letter this year, I found a URL for their blog, and logged in and they have videos like so many people have. I finally got inspired to try and include videos.

Look guys, my camera was cutting edge when I bought it. It’s no longer cutting edge. My only video options are 32-seconds (no more, no less), and there is no sound. But back in 1989 when I bought it… no, it’s not that old.

Hopefully Girlie has a splendid week with her Grandpa and Grandma Trulove. Now, why hasn’t she called me yet…


We went downtown in the worst of the snow, just to see it. We put chains on the car, but they snapped off when we got stuck anyway. Nearby people cursed us and pushed us back onto the road. Yay for people! These photos are too awesome not to share.

The rest of the photos are on flickr

The elk statue downtown where I work.

Buffalo Exchange (love them!) and Gold Door on 37th

Bagdad Theatre playing Burn After Reading

illuminated bicyclist on Peacock Lane

snowy Peacock Lane


lamp icicles at Laurelhurst Park

The photos are from our day yesterday… the story is from today.

girlie sucks the snow off her gloves

The parable of the Good Samaritan is told after one person asks the Teacher “Who is my neighbor?” meaning, who should we look out for? Who should we care for? The answer of course, is everyone.

Yesterday I was the neighbor in need. To my exquisite delight, today I found out that my neighbors were going out of their way to take great care of me.

Near the end of the day yesterday, after taking photos of some awesome sights, I realized my little wallet was missing from my pocket. It holds such important items! My federal ID – eep! My veterans ID so I can make my appointments at the VA hospital. The key card to get into work before business hours so I can change for my morning workout. My December bus pass. AND a 2009 bus pass to get to work next year. Those had been handed out Friday, and the Support Services Guy said, “This cost just under a thousand dollars. Do NOT lose it – it will not be replaced.”

What do you use YOUR swimming pool for?

Four days later I lose it. And the federal ID? I don’t even want to know to what derision I might be subjected for losing that.

But someone found it! In my email this morning, a stranger says, “Hey, I’m A, I found your stuff, give me a call and I’ll get it back to you.”

What relief. You guys have no idea.

Thank you, thank you, and big gigantic THANK YOUs go to A and J and H and all their friends and multiple laptops. Thanks for going sledding at Laurelhurst! Thanks for spotting my ID and bus pass in the snow. And thank you for Googling my name, and for finding my email. Thanks for all the CSI spy tactics and the cleverness!

sledding in a skirt

Thanks A for passing off the ID to your friends before boarding a plane out of town on your way to Guinea (good luck over there). Thanks J and H for strapping on the skis tonight and meeting my #15 bus at Zupan’s to hand it over. (Sorry for eating all your “thank-you” cookies) (they were good)

I am so deeply grateful.

What a thrill to cross paths with these good people. I met them at the intersection of 32nd and Belmont, and they told me the whole hilarious saga of trying to track me down with my name alone. (Luckily, no one else has my name.)

H is a photographer and passed me her card. J invited whole fam for a holiday get-together since their family and friends won’t be here like in other years. H even suggested that after the hours of Internet investigation, we could come over and interview them for a few hours…to even things out a bit. Ha ha!

Laurelhurst Park as winter wonderland

Known affectionately as "the Elk Statue" downtown

Gold Door and my fave store Buffalo Exchange!


Bagdad theatre playing Burn After Reading

One of my many guises

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